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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York


Fifty-fifth General Assembly
Second Committee
15th Meeting (AM)
GA/EF/2922
17 October 2000



SECOND COMMITTEE TAKES UP PERMANENT SOVEREIGNTY OF PALESTINIAN PEOPLE

IN OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORY, INCLUDING JERUSALEM

The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) this morning took up the question of the permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources.

During the debate, speakers discussed the negative impact on development of the situation in the region, as well as events related to the recent conflict.

Jordan’s representative said the Israeli settlement policy had greatly reduced the area of Arab land available to the Palestinian people. The water resources available to the Palestinian people were also problematic -- Israel was unjustly exploiting them so that they were quickly becoming exhausted.

Tunisia’s representative expressed worry about the continuing repercussions of the Israeli occupation. The application of restrictions on business transactions and closures rendered the economic situation in the West Bank and Gaza even more serious. In addition, there were enormous discrepancies between Israeli and Palestinian wages.

Introducing the report of the Secretary-General, Hazem El-Beblawi, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), noted that delays in the implementation of agreements reached between Israel and the Palestinians, or partial implementation, and certain Israeli practices continued to negatively affect the living conditions of the Palestinian people. The continuing occupation severely affected the supply of drinking water for Palestinians, who also faced increasing pollution from Israeli settlements.

Also, he added, the macroeconomic impact of the occupation had inhibited investment and growth. The conditions in the area would remain troubling, as had been starkly underlined by recent developments, until a lasting peace was realized.

Israel’s representative said the report before the Committee was one-sided and did not present a balanced view of the situation. With regard to the recent outbreak of violence, he said that it had clearly been initiated by the Palestinians and meant to serve one purpose - the creation of a new and tense reality that would coerce Israel into further concessions and result in political gains for the Palestinians.

A major breakthrough had been reached this morning at the Sharm el-Sheik summit, he said, as both parties had agreed to end the violence. Israel was determined to bring peace to the Middle East and had left no stone unturned in seeking to create a better future for all the peoples of the region.

The observer for Palestine said that after the last two weeks of hostility by Israel, it was clear that it was impossible for Palestinians to live a normal life. Even as the current summit meeting concluded, a Palestinian farmer had been shot dead by Israeli settlers. The responsibility for the failure of the peace process rested with the occupying power.

Statements were also made by the representatives of the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Bahrain, Syria, Sudan, Egypt and Yemen. Following the debate, the observer for Palestine made a statement in exercise of the right of reply.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 18 October, to begin its consideration of environment and sustainable development, particularly implementation of Agenda 21 and the Programme for the further implementation of Agenda 21.


Committee Work Programme

The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this morning to consider its agenda item on the permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan, over their natural resources.

The Committee had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/55/84-E/2000/16). It states that the living conditions of the Palestinian people continue to be aggravated by delays in the implementation of agreements reached between Israel and the Palestinians, the fact that those agreements are usually not fully implemented, and Israeli practices, such as settlement expansion and closures.

The report states that the continuing Israeli occupation is severely affecting and undermining the supply of drinking water to Palestinians. While a decline in rainfall has significantly disrupted water supply in villages linked to a running water system, the shortage has been most detrimental to those villages unconnected to a supply network. Israel has control over the majority of available water in the occupied Palestinian territory, the settlements use more water than Israel itself and Israel consumes 80 per cent of the water in the West Bank. Moreover, Israel controls water distribution through control of permits for drinking water networks and for drilling wells.

Also, the report continues, Palestinians are faced with the growing problem of pollution from water waste coming from Israeli settlements. These settlements dump their wastewater, especially industrial waste, into Palestinian lands. This not only pollutes agricultural lands, but also groundwater. In addition, environmental regulations on soil, air and water quality and restrictions on industrial development, have generally been less comprehensive and less enforced in the occupied territory as compared with Israel itself.

According to the report, the macroeconomic impact of Israeli occupation is to inhibit investment and growth due to the continued ambiguity of the legal and political situation. There is no basic investment code, nor a settled legal code in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Moreover, there is no final status agreement with Israel. In addition, a restriction on the movement of goods has contributed to further decline in economic growth.

With regard to the Syrian Golan, the report states that in spite of possible evacuation of settlements as part of a peace agreement with Syria, settlement expansion continues. Also, employment opportunities for the Arab population in the Syrian Golan are extremely restricted, since their movement between the Golan and Syria remain problematic.


Introduction of Report

HAZEM EL-BEBLAWI, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), introduced the report before the Committee. He said that the Economic and Social Council had considered the report during its 2000 substantive session and had called on Israel to cease measures against the Palestinians, including the closure of Palestinian territory, the destruction of homes, and the isolation of Jerusalem. In considering the report, the Committee might wish to bear in mind other United Nations resolutions. Year after year, since 1967, the report had stated the increasing negative repercussions of the Israeli occupation. Delays in the implementation of agreements reached between Israel and the Palestinians, or partial implementation, as well as other Israeli actions continued to negatively affect the living conditions of the Palestinian people.

The continuing Israeli occupation severely affected the supply of drinking water for Palestinians, who also faced increasing pollution from Israeli settlements, he continued. The contamination of water could have devastating effects on the health of Palestinians. Also, the macroeconomic impact of the occupation had inhibited investment and growth. Settlement expansion was still continuing. In addition, employment opportunities for the population of the Syrian Golan Heights was severely limited. The report made clear that until an enduring peace was realized, the conditions in the area would remain troubling. That was starkly underlined by recent developments in the region.

Statements

MARWAN JILANI, observer for Palestine, said his delegation had been hoping that there would have been a qualitative change in the peace process in the Middle East culminating in a peace treaty. Unfortunately, there had been a deterioration of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem. The continued Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people, beginning on 28 September, had resulted in the death of over 90, including thousands injured. This was now becoming a serious threat to the political stability of the region. It was also apparent that the region affected the whole world in terms of economic and social stability. It was clear that regional armed conflicts and development were incompatible.

The illegal Israeli settlement policies were detrimental to the peace process, he said. After the last two weeks of hostility by Israel, it was clear that it was impossible for Palestinians to live a normal life. Settlements had been turned into military barricades. As the current summit meeting concluded, a Palestinian farmer had been shot dead by Israeli settlers.

He said the excessive use of force by Israel demonstrated how the arrogance of power still had hold of the Israeli leadership. Even worse, the Israeli leadership continued to put the blame on the Palestinian leadership. What Israel continued to hide was the problem of the continued Israeli occupation. Israel must understand that Palestinian lives were as important as Israeli lives, and only then would there be a just peace.

Israel has pursued a policy of Judaization of the holy city of Jerusalem, he said. It had also pursued a policy of annexation of Palestinian property. The report before the Committee testified to the current illegal policies. Therefore, the responsibility for the failure of the peace process rested with the colonial power. Fundamental principles included: bringing an end to the illegal Israel occupation; ensuring the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland; and providing compensation if they did not wish to return.

The Palestinians had acccepted the compromise of dividing historic Palestine into two States, he said. In that context, it was important to remember that the United Nations had allotted 54 per cent of Palestine to Israel, not 78 percent. Palestine remained committed to finding a just and lasting peace based on the principles of international law. To achieve such a peace, he stressed that Israel must withdraw from all of the Syrian Golan.

AHMED AL-HAMELI (United Arab Emirates) said that despite the diplomatic efforts being undertaken to put an end to unlawful Israeli violations, the forces of the Israeli occupation in the last few weeks had continued their aggression, which had led to the deaths of more than 100, and the wounding of more than 1,000. Despite international resolutions and Secretary-General’s reports, it was clear that there was an increase in Israeli activities in Palestinian territories. Israel, not content with settling in Palestinian areas, had also seized land and water, which deprived Palestinians of their wealth.

There were also restrictions placed on Palestinians farming their own land, he continued. Israel had polluted the atmosphere and dumped industrial waste in rivers, affecting the health of the Palestinians. The United Arab Emirates held Israel responsible for those practices carried out in Palestinian territories and condemned the air and sea raids undertaken by Israel. It also condemned the Israeli policy concerning the movement of Palestinian people and goods, which affected the social and economic development of Palestinians. He appealed to the United Nations to work for peace in the region and allow the Palestinian people to fulfil their aspirations for an independent State, with Jerusalem as its capital.

ALAMGIR BABAR (Pakistan) said that the people of Palestine had been denied their rights to live in peace and have sovereignty over their land. The current struggle in the Middle East proved that the people of Palestine would not accept anything short of the terms of Security Council resolution 242 (1967).

He said Pakistan believed that the international community should make an effort to establish permanent sovereignty over the Palestinian land. The occupation by Israel had severely restricted the growth of Palestinian communities. Expansion of Israeli settlements, which posed threats to the environment, had not stopped. Contamination of water resources was having a negative impact among the Palestinians living in the area. Palestinians were not allowed to live and work on their lands. The macroeconomic impact of the occupation was having a negative effect on investment in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Pakistan supported the right of the Palestinians to their own State with east Jerusalem as its capital, he said. Pakistan extended its unequivocal support to the people of Palestine. In spite of a peace agreement with Syria, employment opportunities for Arabs in the Golan Heights was extremely restricted. All of this worked to the detriment to the Arab population of the Golan. The recent uprising had made it clear that the people of Palestine would not accept anything but full sovereignty over their economic resources.

JASSIM BUALLAY (Bahrain) said that Israel had continued its violations in the occupied Arab territories. The Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in times of war should apply. The Israeli occupation had depleted the natural resources of the occupied Palestinian territories and the occupied Syrian Golan. Israel continued to confiscate land, occupy Palestinian homes and settle Palestinian areas, all of which had negative repercussions on the Palestinians living in those areas. Israel also hampered the economic development of Palestinian communities. It controlled the water resources and did not respond to the needs of the Palestinians, just those of the Israeli settlements. That had negative repercussions on the environment and led to pollution in the occupied Arab territories.

In addition, he continued, the economy in the Palestinian territories had suffered due to closures. The region had faced the conflict for more than half a century. On the threshold of a new millennium, he looked forward to a lasting and durable settlement of the conflict, the Israeli withdrawal from all Arab territories and the right of the Palestinian people to establish an independent State with Jerusalem as its capital.

WALID AL-HADID (Jordan) said his delegation had studied the report of the Secretary-General. The policy pursued by the various Israeli groups to undermine the economics of the Palestine people was unacceptable. Security Council resolution 446 (1979) stipulated that the Israeli policies and practices concerning the creation of settlements had no legal legitimacy and ran counter to efforts to achieve permanent peace. The General Assembly had repeatedly noted the economic and social repercussions of these settlements on the Palestinian people and in the occupied territory in the Syrian Golan.

Large areas of the Palestinian territories had been confiscated, he said. The Israeli settlement policy had greatly reduced the area of Arab land available to the Palestinian people. This had had a serious effect on the economy of Palestine. The water resources available to the Palestinian people were also problematic. Israel, which controlled 80 per cent of the water resources in the West Bank, was unjustly exploiting them so that they were quickly becoming exhausted. The Palestinian people also suffered from pollution. The settlers dumped their waste on Palestinian land. Israelis had committed many attacks on the environment in this way.

Israel was continuing its policy of undermining the economy of Palestine and Arab countries, he said. In the Syrian Golan, job opportunities for the Arab population were available only for day workers, and workers did not enjoy the advantage of social security. With regard to the recent events, Jordan firmly condemned what had been happening in the occupied Arab territories. The recent events had confirmed Jordan’s position. Those who used force would not be successful. That would only lead to further violence in the region.

BILAL GASMALLA (Sudan) said his country condemned Israel’s aggression of recent days. The international community had hoped for seven years that the peace process that had begun in Oslo would lead to a lasting solution to the conflict. Unfortunately, that hope was dwindling day by day, primarily due to the arrogance of Israel, which had refused to implement internationally concluded agreements. Israel, through its practices such as settlements and closures, was continuing to hinder the development of the Palestinians. In doing so, it also undermined investment and the economic development of the territories due to the vague legal and political environment present there.

With regard to the Golan, he said that settlement continued and employment opportunities were severely limited. What was taking place in the occupied Palestinian territories since last month was due to Israel’s flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and its continued provocation of the Palestinians, including unarmed children and women. He urged the United Nations to put pressure on Israel to end their repressive practices and human rights violations and apply the peace agreements. The Second Committee should stress that Israeli settlements in the occupied Arab territories were illegal and a violation of the rights of the Palestinian people.

HUSSEIN SABBAGH (Syria) said his delegation had spoken previously about the Israeli record of the continued occupation and illegal seizure of land in the occupied Arab territories. The fierce Israeli efforts to change the demographics of the occupied Palestinian and Arab territories were tantamount to closing the door on the peace process. Israel had decided to enforce its will on the Palestinian people, using all weapons available to them. Resorting to the logic of aggression was unacceptable. The current tragic situation on the ground made tackling the policies of Israel of the utmost importance.

The record of the Israeli practices was self-explanatory, he said. To speak about statistics and abstract figures did not match the current events faced by the Palestinian people. The conflict was between two sets of logic -- the logic of brute force, through which Israel advanced their policies, and the logic of the force of right, which the Arabs upheld in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions. The events of the last two weeks and the excessive use of force had dealt fatal blows to the peace process in the Middle East. It was clear that Israel did not want peace, but sought the blackmail of the Palestinian people. Israel had to return to its position before June 1967. The current Israeli policy would abort the chances of achieving peace in the region.

MOHAMED FADHEL AYARI (Tunisia) said that today’s meeting was being held after the sad and worrying events of recent days in the Palestinian territories, as well as the damage caused by Israeli policy. Israeli forces had killed about 100, and hundreds of Palestinians had been wounded, including civilians and children. Those events confirmed the deterioration of conditions in the Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem. It also confirmed the flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in times of war.

He said Tunisia was worried about the continuing repercussions of the illegal Israeli occupation. The report described the continued expansion of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as the policy of isolating Jerusalem. The application of restrictions on business transactions and closures rendered the economic situation in those areas even more serious. In addition, there were enormous discrepancies between Israeli and Palestinian wages.

Tunisia had taken part in the Madrid peace process, he said. Israel was continuing to expand settlements in violation of international law. Therefore, Israel must be compelled to respect relevant international agreements. Tunisia would like the current summit to result in Israel facing up to its responsibilities and complying with the Fourth Geneva Convention and relevant United Nations resolutions, including the latest Security Council resolution on Israeli practices. He hoped that the Summit would calm things down, so that the peace process could proceed on the basis of the principle of land for peace.

HAZEM FAHMY (Egypt) said that the negative repercussions of the Israeli occupation were clear. This was a systematic policy, which aimed to deprive people of their rights, and to limit the opportunities of future generations. The policy ran counter to the Arab population in the Syrian Golan. It was also a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. It was unimaginable that the United Nations could remain idle during this process.

In that respect, his delegation invited all States that continued to respect international law to speak out and to join the appeals of the United Nations. The latest bloody events showed the international community that there was no future for occupation. He hoped that Israel would respect international agreements and put an end to their occupation policies.

AMED AL-HADAD (Yemen) said that the number of deaths in the Middle East were increasing, and the atmosphere was extremely tense. That was why new efforts for peace were needed. New Israeli expansions were unlawful and were the very root of the problem. The current Summit was dealing with the events leading to the deaths of children. Both sides were having difficulty breaking free of a vicious circle. Israel continued not to recognize the human rights of the Palestinians. The environment was also suffering damage as a result of Israeli practices, including the pollution of air and water. Settlers were dumping their waste in Palestinian territory and thereby polluting land, including that which was used for farming. There were also restrictions on Palestinian economic transactions.

With regard to the occupied Syrian Golan, he affirmed the need for the full withdrawal of Israel from that area. The current Israeli policy would not produce peace in the region. Tensions would only increase in the future. What Israel had to do was to return to law and not continue to resort to force and kill children in the streets.

DANIEL MEGIDDO (Israel) said that the Second Committee dealt with issues that affected the well being of the human race. Fortunately, there was a consensus on the basic goals of international cooperation with regard to issues such as eliminating poverty, securing food supplies and eradicating diseases. Unfortunately, there were those who wished to divert the discussion from the issues and detract from the Committee’s ability to reach a consensus. Today’s debate contributed nothing to the Committee’s consideration of global issues. Israel could have chosen to respond in detail to each and every aspect of the report. Instead, his delegation would only point out that the document before the Committee was blatantly one-sided and did not present a balanced view of the situation.

Throughout the past decade, four consecutive Israeli Governments had striven to achieve a peace agreement with their Palestinian neighbours, based on the premises that Israel had found a partner for peace in Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. Though the recent summit at Camp David had not reached its goal, it had succeeded in overcoming some major difficulties. One important outcome was the conclusion that the negotiators would be free from intimidation and threats of violence. Over the last two weeks, there had been an intense outbreak of violence not seen in recent years. This violence, which had clearly been initiated by the Palestinians, was meant to serve one purpose: the creation of a new and tense reality that would coerce Israel into further concessions and result in political gains for the Palestinians. These tactics would not succeed. Israel would not yield to violence. If the Palestinians insisted on advancing their goals through force, Israel would be compelled to defend itself.

A major breakthrough had been reached this morning at the Sharm el-Sheik summit, as both parties had agreed to end the fighting and violence. This was a basis on which, hopefully, peace talks could be resumed. Both sides had agreed to take certain steps, among which the most important was to condemn the violence and restore calm and stability. The obvious test would be in the implementation of what was agreed upon this morning.

Israel was determined to bring peace to the Middle East and had left no stone unturned in seeking to create a better future for all the peoples of the region, he said. Israelis and Palestinians were destined to live next to each other. The moment of truth had come. Israel hoped that the Palestinians would once and for all abandon the path of violence and join Israel in this effort.


Right of Reply

Mr. JILANI, observer for Palestine, said he wanted to respond to the statement made by Israel, particularly the allegation that the Palestinian side had instigated the violence in an effort to coerce Israel and to advance its own goals by force. In looking at the events on the ground, it was possible to see the measures used by Israel to coerce not only the Palestinian leadership but also its population.

He quoted examples from an article by Amira Haas in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, entitled “Lies Accompanied by Bullets”, on the use of force exhibited by the Israeli Defence Forces in recent weeks, including shootings of ambulance drivers. The scenes witnessed, including that of the picture of the killing of the child Mohammed Al-Durra, in the lap of his father, were testimony to the force used by Israel against the Palestinians.


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For information media - not an official record